The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 7 page 3

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Certainly no one knew better, for Aaron Sherritt was an intimate, personal friend of Joe Byrne, and had been engaged in several horse stealing exploits with him and the Kellys, besides which it was pretty certain that he had given them aid only a day or two before, when they were engaged, after the murders, on their attempt to cross the Murray. For a bushman he was something of a dandy, and physically a splendid specimen of a man. Mr Sadlier engaged him in conversation and presently consulted with Captain Standish and his other brother officer. In the meantime the men had dismounted from their horses. Mrs Byrne and her children appeared upon the scene, and some miners, who were prospecting and digging near by came up and mingled with the throng. All idea of further Kelly hunting was abandoned for the day. Refreshments were sent for, and soon the incongruous gathering in the tableland valley resolved itself into a great impromptu early morning picnic. Captain Standish and Mr Sadlier, combining business with pleasure, immediately entered into negotiations with Aaron Sherritt, endeavouring to induce him to become a police agent and to betray his friends, the members of the gang. Mr Nicolson, who was still in a humour of stern disapproval with the whole affair, considered it very inadvisable to carry on conversation of such a kind in the presence, and, as he thought, in the hearing of constables and casual civilian spectators, and he even remonstrated with Captain Standish on the subject. It does not however appear from the evidence of this officer and Mr Sadlier, that the police, other than one or two who were treated confidentially, or any of the civilians present, knew anything of what was going on. They no doubt saw Sherritt speaking to the Commissioner, but the later most of the people did not know, and conversation between the police and an inhabitant of the locality was in any case natural enough.

The conversation was of an interesting kind. Certain proposals were made by Mr Sadlier to Sherritt, who was not satisfied with his authority to treat and was thereupon introduced to Captain Standish, and soon an arrangement was arrived at. Sherritt was very anxious that no harm should happen to Joe Byrne, and though Captain Standish was unable to promise that individual his liberty, he said he was sure his recommendation would be sufficiently weighty to secure Byrne’s life, in the event of the gang being captured through Sherritt’s instrumentality. With the guarantee to save Byrne’s life Sherritt seemed satisfied. He was not to go with any party of police, but, pretending friendship with the gang and their allies, he was to take his own course as a secret agent—a calling which exposed him to the greatest possible danger should he be discovered—which in itself goes to prove that in his talk with the police officers he at least saw nothing compromising, in spite of the presence of the motley crowd. No money was given to him at the time, but it was understood that he was to receive payment for his services, beside which he would have shared in the large reward, ultimately reaching £8,000, offered by the Victorian Government for the capture of the outlaws. The interview with Sherritt being concluded, Captain Standish and Mr Sadlier then approached Mrs Byrne, whose hut was their temporary headquarters. They pointed out to her that her son had got his head into a halter, and that she could save him if she liked. However she was not amenable to argument. She probably was not impressed with the capacity of the police for effecting a capture, and her answer was, ‘He has made his bed, let him lie on it.’ The officers made use of all their persuasiveness, but entirely without effect, and they had to remain satisfied with Sherritt’s promise of assistance as the outcome of their day’s work at ‘Rats’ Castle.’

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